Virtue of Selflessness
Selflessness is a virtue many people have strived towards for centuries. The human race has a tendency to put their personal goals, time and well being at the forefront of their attention, instead of helping others confront the challenges they face themselves. It is notable when someone sacrifices, no matter the size, from something as small as buying someone else’s lunch for them or to the magnitude of their own life, for someone else in order to aid in something bigger than themselves.
In the novel The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, there are many characters that spend their time and risk their lives to aid Santiago on his quest. The lesson of doing things for a greater purpose, can be taught by characters in the book, military heros and biblical figures.
Santiago and Other Characters’ Development
Throughout The Alchemist, characters such as Melchizedek, the Crystal Merchant and the Alchemist, give their time, wisdom and risk their personal safety for Santiago’s pursuit of his personal legend. When Santiago meets Melchizedek, he is unsure of whether or not to embark on the quest. “‘Take these.’ said the old man, holding out a white stone and a black stone that had been embedded at the center of the breast plate. ‘They are called Urim and Thummim. The black signifies yes and the white ‘no’. When you are unable to read the omens, they will help you do so,’” (Coelho 30). Melchizedek, the king of Salem, gives physical wisdom to Santiago so that when he is on his journey he can better understand the omens put in front of him by God. When Santiago meets the crystal merchant, he is on his way to Egypt to find the pyramids but has run out of money. The merchant allows Santiago to work for him in his shop. The merchant has a dream to go to Mecca, as it is required in Islam to go one time. He does not go because “‘Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive… I am afraid that if my dream is realized I’ll have no reason to go on living” (Coelho 51). The Crystal merchant does not go to Mecca because he is worried that he will have nothing to look forward to and no goal to achieve. Santiago saw the position in which the merchant was and realized that it was not what he wanted with his life. This helped Santiago commit himself to his journey. After Santiago embarks on his journey to Egypt and the pyramids he meets The Alchemist. The Alchemist is a man who turns solid metals into solid gold. He meets Santiago at an oasis and he guides him towards the pyramids. Throughout their journey together The Alchemist shares an abundance of wisdom with Santiago. One thing he says is “‘Don’t give in to your fears,’ said the alchemist, ‘If you do you won’t be able to walk with your heart,’” (Coelho 141). While Santiago and The Alchemist are in the desert they face many dangerous situations and face many fears. This helps Santiago face his fears and be trusting in The Alchemist’s judgement. These characters and mentors all give Santiago their time, and in some cases money and their personal possessions.